For the longest time, Vikas Sodhani (pictured) had no interest in joining the diamond business. Growing up in Texas, where his parents, both of Indian origin, have run a loose diamond business for the better part of 40 years, Sodhani gravitated to technology. After majoring in computer science and electrical engineering at MIT, he went to work at tech startups.
Around 2004, shortly after the first dot-com bubble burst, Sodhani decided to go backpacking in India. The climate for tech startups was “horrible,” he tells JCK, and it seemed like a good time to reconnect with his roots. He was due to fly home via Mumbai when his father told him that a job at a local diamond company was available to him, if he wanted it.
“I’m like, ‘Nice try, dad,’” Sodhani says. “But my sister said, ‘Why don’t you take the job and then you can stay in Bombay?’ I started the next morning at Rosy Blue.”
Working at one of the world’s largest diamond manufacturers was a promising start to a career that soon segued into the fine jewelry business. In 2006, Sodhani founded ILA, a diamond jewelry brand currently sold at Saks Fifth Avenue, Moda Operandi, Eliza Page, and scores of additional jewelry stores around the United States as well as internationally.
In January 2021, at the height of the pandemic, Sodhani brought his various interests full circle with the debut of Unbridaled AI, a company offering diamond curation software, Unbridaled Diamonds, powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Designed to simplify and streamline the process of selecting the best diamonds at the best price in real time, the technology is focused on shortening the selection process and helping retailers close the sale. Thanks to its numerous sightholder and diamond manufacturing partners, the company ships diamonds directly from India and overseas to the United States.
“As an engineer, someone who came from a deep technical background, I realized the state of software in our industry was really ancient,” Sodhani tells JCK. “It was hard to sell a diamond to a customer for an engagement ring, and it was also difficult to explain the intricacies of a diamond so that they felt educated and comfortable enough to buy. I thought there had to be a better way.”
Sodhani reasoned that the amount of data available on certified diamonds would be enough to give a computer capable of machine learning, a subset of AI that involves training machines to learn from data, the ability to select the best diamonds, thereby freeing up the time a retailer had to spend sourcing them.
“There’s a lot of data on these certified diamonds from the labs on things like angles and inclusions, and sightholders have even more info: ‘Is the diamond eye clean? What is the shape?’” Sodhani says. “With all this data, we hypothesized that artificial intelligence should be able to look through all this data and find the best diamond. It’s what a gemologist would do if you told him what you wanted. He’d look at what’s available and find the best one. So we started writing software and using AI to see if it could provide good results, and it turns out, it provides amazing results. We patented it.”
The curation technology is designed to work online as well as in a physical environment “because every store will have different requirements,” Sodhani says. “Some people, for example, will only want to show H color and above. The system is flexible and you can train it and then it figures out the best diamonds.”
“Unbridaled Diamonds takes an appointment that typically took two to three weeks down to 10 to 15 minutes,” Sodhani wrote in a follow-up email.
But that was just the beginning. Sodhani realized that as his business grew, it required more nuanced and robust management software. “I pretty much bought every piece of software out there to run a diamond jewelry company and they were all horrible,” he says, referring to software that could be used to manage inventory, manufacturing, shipping, invoicing, etc. Once again, Sodhani began writing his own software.
“We built it to manage our own operations but realized we were onto something big,” Sodhani says. “Most small- to medium-size enterprises run their businesses off Excel or some kind of spreadsheet; they don’t have software to run their business. That’s the space we’re filling.”
The company introduced Unbridaled OS at the recent JCK Las Vegas show. “It’s jewelry management software specifically designed for our industry, and it syncs with modern software that most people would use, mainly Shopify and Quickbooks,” Sodhani says.
“Most times, if you have Excel or Quickbooks, you don’t have a good sense of the pulse of your business,” he adds. “It’s a challenge to understand what’s going on. Because our strength is in AI or machine learning, we’re building an AI copilot inside Unbridaled OS that’s constantly analyzing your data. Everything is integrated and stored in our system. So we know exactly what’s happening.”
The software can track inventory across multiple locations, manage deadlines, and leverage analytics to deliver insights into sales performance, among other key features.
Sodhani says his goal is to help owners run their businesses better. “An owner has to wear so many hats: designing, sales, manufacturing, sourcing,” he says. “How do you manage all those and grow a company? You need help and that is where these AI assistants come in.”Follow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
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